What Is the HEXACO Personality Test?

African mid woman using smartphone at home

Ridofranz / Getty Images

What Is the HEXACO Personality Test?

HEXACO Personality Test

The HEXACO Personality Inventory measures six facets of personality:

  1. Honesty-Humility
  2. Emotionality
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness (vs. Anger)
  5. Conscientiousness
  6. Openness to Experience

Those who complete the personality test answer statements such as, “I often go for walks” or “I like to watch television.” A computer then analyzes the results and provides scores on each of the 6 domains, as well as 25 facets. Responses are collected and used for research purposes.

History

The HEXACO Personality Inventory was developed in 2000 by Canadian psychology professors Kibeom Lee, Ph.D. & Michael C. Ashton, Ph.D. 

The inventory’s foundations stem from research into five core personality traits by Donald Fiske in the 1940s. This was studied further by psychologists such as Dr. Paul Costa and Dr. Robert McCrae in the 1980s.

The “Big 5,” as these core traits are called, served as the theoretical basis upon which Ashton & Lee created the HEXACO Personality Inventory.

However, when Ashton & Lee conducted their studies in various other languages aside from English, they added the Honesty-Humility factor. 

Since then, the HEXACO Personality Test has been used widely, and has been translated into over 40 languages. 

What the Six Facets Mean

Like other personality tests, the HEXACO Personality Inventory is used to gauge human personality across a multitude of situations.

There are six primary domains that comprise the assessment.

Here’s a bit more about each one:

  1. Honesty-Humility: Those who score high on this trait seldom break rules, rarely deceive others for personal benefit, aren’t interested in luxury or lavishness, and don’t feel entitled to a high social status. Conversely, those who score low have an inflated sense of self-importance, flatter others to get what they desire, bend rules for personal gain, and are materialistic
  2. Emotionality: Participants with high scores in this domain tend to experience more anxiety, crave more emotional support, feel deeper empathy towards others, and fear physical dangers. Those who score low on emotionality aren’t fearful of physical harm, feel more detached from others, experience little distress, and aren’t inclined to open up to others.
  3. Extraversion: Individuals who score high on extraversion are confident when leading others, feel energized and motivated, view themselves in a positive light, and thrive in social situations. Those who score low on this domain believe themselves to be unpopular, don’t care for social situations, feel uncomfortable when they’re the center of attention, and don’t experience as much enthusiasm and optimism. 
  4. Agreeableness: People who have high scores on this trait are more inclined to compromise, can manage their temper, judge others with leniency, and can forgive easily. Those with low scores are stubborn and tend to hold grudges against those who have hurt them, criticize others, and become angered easily when they are mistreated. 
  5. Conscientiousness: Individuals with high conscientiousness scores consider decisions carefully, aim for perfection and accuracy, possess discipline when working towards goals, and are organized with their time and surroundings. Those who score low on this domain let errors slide, make decisions impulsively, don’t give as much attention to their time or surroundings, and are deterred by challenging goals or tasks. 
  6. Openness to Experience: People scoring high on this trait are imaginative, drawn towards unconventional people or ideas, immerse themselves in nature and art, and inquire about different knowledge bases. Those with low scores aren’t creative, stray away from radical ideas, aren’t interested in artwork, and don’t experience intellectual curiosity. 

Each of these six domains has four facets, which further explore how personality tendencies may manifest. For instance, the Honesty-Humility domain has a Sincerity scale, which assesses individuals’ predisposition for being genuine in their interpersonal relations.

There’s also an Interstitial Scale, unattached to any of the domains, which measures individuals’ likelihood of being altruistic vs. antagonistic.

Benefits of the HEXACO Personality Inventory

Learning more about one’s personality type can be advantageous. This can help individuals understand why they act the way they do. Personality tests can also be beneficial for mental health professionals.

According to Dr. Lee Phillips, “We must know how patients cope with their mental health issues of concern prior to starting psychotherapy. Facilitating personality tests provides psychotherapists with the framework for treatment planning and selecting a treatment modality that will benefit the patient.” 

Like other personality inventories, the HEXACO Personality Inventory is simple to administer and can be completed in little time. 

The HEXACO Personality Inventory May Be Used to Predict Behavior

Furthermore, the HEXACO Personality Inventory has been used by scientists to predict certain behaviors.

In one study, researchers found that the personality test helped determine differences in personality traits between various academic majors.

Business/commerce majors, for instance, scored higher in Extraversion compared to their Physical Sciences/Math counterparts, while Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences students exhibited more Openness to Experiences than other majors. 

One meta-analysis also found that those who scored higher in Openness to Experience and Honesty and Humility were more likely to exhibit pro-environmental behavior. 

Drawbacks of the HEXACO Personality Inventory

While the HEXACO Personality Inventory is beneficial, it also has its drawbacks. Studies have found that individuals completing personality inventories can respond to items based on social desirability, meaning, answering in a manner that presents them in a favorable light.

Since the HEXACO Personality Inventory is subjective, it can be difficult to account for social desirability in participants’ final scores.

Additionally, although the HEXACO Personality Inventory has been studied in cross-cultural contexts, it is difficult to generalize results. Kara Nassour, LPC, NCC says,

Personality Test Don't Consider Cultural Differences

“Personality tests will overlook any factors that are not being measured on the test.” For instance, “A person raised in Japan might act more deferential in an office setting than most Americans would, and might get judged as ‘more agreeable’ or as having ‘low confidence’ by an American test. But that does not reflect how they see themselves, or how most Japanese people would interpret their actions.”

Finally, the HEXACO Personality can “box” people into certain categories, according to Dr. Michele Goldman of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. She also says, “People tend to hold onto the notion that their results are fixed and conclusive, but our personalities change and evolve over time.” 

A Word From Verywell

The HEXACO Personality Inventory can be useful in understanding trends in individuals’ behaviors, thoughts, and emotions by measuring six domains. This tool can not only be beneficial at the personal level, by allowing someone to understand why they exhibit the qualities they do, but it can also assist mental health professionals, in that they can use the scores to tailor treatment to the client's needs.

The HEXACO Personality Inventory isn’t meant to diagnose any particular mental health condition but can complement a broader treatment plan.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kibeom Lee, Ph.D, & Michael C. Ashton, Ph.D. The HEXACO Personality Inventory- Revised. 

  2. Ashton M. Individual Differences and Personality. 2017.

  3. Lee K, Ashton M, Novitsky C. Academic Majors and HEXACO Personality. Journal of Career Assessment. 2022;30(2):345-366. doi: 10.1177/10690727211044765

  4. Soutter ARB, Bates TC, Mõttus R. Big Five and HEXACO Personality Traits, Proenvironmental Attitudes, and Behaviors: A Meta-AnalysisPerspect Psychol Sci. 2020;15(4):913-941. doi:10.1177/1745691620903019

  5. Bäckström M, Björklund F. Social desirability in personality inventories: Symptoms, diagnosis and prescribed cure. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. 2012. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjop.12015

  6. Ion A, Iliescu D, Aldharfi S, Rana N, Ratanadilok K, Widyanti A, Nedelcea C. A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Personality Structure Through the Lens of the HEXACO Model. Journal of Personality Assessment. 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2016.1187155